We all deal with the occasional stress pimple or hormone-induced breakout from time to time. But for those with acne-prone skin, blemishes can be a constant (and frustrating) battle. Fortunately, acne is also among the most common skin conditions: Nearly 95% of people deal with it at some point in their lives. For that reason, finding face treatments for acne—like cleansers, moisturizers, and facial masks—isn’t too difficult.
That said, because it’s so common, there are a lot of acne cleansers out there, and not all of them will work for all skin types. So, to help you learn how to clean acne-prone skin properly, we put together a guide to our best acne cleansers for every skin type and variety of breakout. Read on to learn more about Kiehl’s best cleansers for acne.
For Persistent Breakouts: Blue Herbal Acne Cleanser Treatment
When you’re dealing with persistent or all-over breakouts, reach for a face wash formulated for acne-prone skin, like Blue Herbal Acne Cleanser Treatment. This formula—our best face wash for acne of all types—stars exfoliating salicylic acid to deep clean pores and help clear stubborn blemishes. The foaming formula also contains ginger root essential oil and frankincense to help purify the skin and prevent new breakouts from forming. Use it morning and night when you’re breaking out to promote smoother, clearer-looking skin.
Kiehl's Expert Tip: Salicylic acid isn’t the only ingredient that can help shrink blemishes and clear breakouts. Discover more in our article The Best Ingredients For Treating Pimples.
For Sensitive Blemish-Prone Skin: Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Cleanser
Acne-prone skin products often contain ingredients that can be harsh on the skin, so they’re not always ideal for those with reactive skin. If you have sensitive skin, we recommend the top-rated Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Facial Cleanser. This gentle daily cleanser is formulated with 99.6% naturally-derived ingredients, including calming Cannabis sativa seed oil and green oregano oil.* These powerful plant ingredients help clear pore-clogging dirt, oil, and impurities without stripping the skin for a refreshed, healthy-looking appearance.
Kiehl's Expert Tip: Skincare for acne can sometimes be harsh or drying, particularly if your skin is sensitive. Always start slowly and cease using a product if it’s causing any irritation or severe dryness.
For Exfoliating Acne-Prone Skin: Rare Earth Deep Pore Daily Cleanser
Exfoliating acne-prone skin can be challenging, particularly if you’re prone to redness or irritation. Skip the harsh scrubs and reach for a mild exfoliating cleanser instead, like Rare Earth Deep Pore Daily Cleanser. This unique face wash features Amazonian white clay and aloe vera to thoroughly cleanse oily skin. It also contains exfoliating diatomaceous earth to gently buff away excess oil and dead skin cells. This helps minimize the appearance of enlarged pores for soft, fresh skin.
For Blemish-Prone Combination Skin: Calendula Deep Cleansing Foaming Face Wash
If you have combination skin or are prone to acne in only some areas, skip the acne cleansers, as these can strip your drier areas and lead to further issues down the line. Instead, reach for a gentle foaming cleanser, like Calendula Deep Cleansing Foaming Face Wash. This gel cleanser is formulated with soothing calendula extract to lift away dirt and impurities without stripping the skin’s natural moisture barrier. It’s suitable for all skin types, making it an ideal cleanser for those with combination skin. Then, reach for a targeted spot treatment to treat individual blemishes or problem areas.
Kiehl's Expert Tip: Acne doesn’t just occur on the face. You can get breakouts anywhere you have pores (so, pretty much everywhere). Learn how to treat acne-prone skin on the body in our article What Causes Body Acne and How To Address These Breakouts.
For Oily, Acne-Prone Skin: Ultra Facial Oil-Free Cleanser
When the skin produces too much oil, the excess can mix with dead skin cells and clog pores, leading to blackheads, whiteheads, and other types of blemishes. Keeping oiliness under control helps keep these breakouts at bay. For oily skin types, we recommend using a gel-based cleanser, like Ultra Facial Oil-Free Cleanser. This mild face wash contains a blend of potent plant extracts, such as desert plant extract, to help purify oily skin. With daily use, the lightweight foaming formula visibly reduces excess oil on the skin’s surface for a fresh, balanced appearance.
For Irritated Acne-Prone Skin: Centella Sensitive Facial Cleanser
If you have extremely irritated acne-prone skin—either from natural sensitivity or due to overusing harsh products—the best thing to do is reach for ultra-gentle treatments that nourish and strengthen the skin barrier. For cleanser, we recommend our mildest option, Centella Sensitive Facial Cleanser. It’s formulated with Centella asiatica extract and glycerin to gently melt away impurities without stripping or drying the skin. The pH-balanced cleanser is free of common irritants, like soap, alcohol, and fragrance, so it’s safe to use on even extremely damaged skin. You can use it as a normal cleanser or use a clean cotton pad to swipe it over your skin (no rinsing needed) for an ultra-gentle clean.
For Men’s Oily, Blemish-Prone Skin: Oil Eliminator
Men’s skin tends to be thicker and oilier than women’s skin, which is partly why men tend to have larger-looking pores. While there are benefits to having oilier skin—like less dryness—it can make guys more susceptible to blemishes like blackheads. For guys with oily skin types, our best-selling Oil Eliminator Deep Cleansing Exfoliating Face Wash can help remove some of that excess sebum. The non-comedogenic formula contains crushed apricot kernels and salicylic acid to gently buff away dead skin cells and other pore-clogging impurities. This minimizes the appearance of enlarged pores for a smooth, shine-free finish.
For Men’s Combination Skin: Age Defender
Since men have oilier skin, exfoliating regularly is vital for keeping the skin clear and smooth. For guys with normal or combination skin and breakouts, we recommend Age Defender Dual-Action Exfoliating Cleanser. This facial cleanser features gentle phytic acid and Moroccan lava clay to deeply clean the skin. With regular use, this two-in-one cleanser helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and improve skin texture. The unique formula doubles as a gentle exfoliating face mask for an extra treatment when skin feels congested or dull. Use it daily as a cleanser and up to three times a week as a mask for smoother, younger-looking skin.
*We consider ingredients to be naturally derived if they retain more than 50% of their molecular structure after being processed from a natural source.